The 'Gentleman Billionaire's' final legacy

Australian businessman and philanthropist, Paul Ramsey, leaves his entire fortune to the charity he founded.



07 May 2014

One of the richest men in Australia has left his $3billion fortune to charity. Paul Ramsey, the founder and chairman of Ramsay Health Care, which runs 150 hospitals in five countries, was 78 when he died at his home in New South Wales on 1st May. Ramsay was recently listed by Forbes as the ninth-richest person in Australia. He never married and had no children. His charity, The Paul Ramsay Foundation, will now become one of the wealthiest charities in the Australia. His contribution is biggest single charitable donation in Australian history and his generosity is likely to inspire entrepreneurs everywhere to do the same.

Ramsay's posthumous philanthropy follows suit of many other notable businessmen who have proffered to give as much as 99% of their wealth to worthy causes. Five years ago an inspiring idea was cooked up when Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett came together with influential philanthropists worldwide. Although Ramsay had never pledged the foundation, the group of extremely wealthy businessmen and women have made a similar commitment to donate all or significant amounts of their fortunes to address the most significant problems in today's society. 'The Giving Pledge', encourages the world's wealthiest individuals and families to commit more than half of their fortune to philanthropy or charitable causes throughout their lifetime or in their will.

Some may be confused by the act of giving money away to someone other than family but, Buffett argues, 'I don't really think that, as a society, we want to confer blessings on generation after generation who contribute nothing to society, simply because somebody in the far distant past happened to amass a great sum of wealth.' Today 122 billionaire or former billionaires have agreed and signed the pledge, which so far has reached philanthropists in eleven countries and together represents a total of $600 billion in net worth. Ever more, billionaires around the world are donating their fortunes, rather than indulging their heirs, in hopes to make the world a better place.


The Giving Pledge is intended to inspire conversations, discussions, and action in order to ensure an impactful contribution and draw more people into philanthropy. To make a pledge, the family or individual makes a statement publicly regarding their decision to pledge and shares ideas with others choosing to pledge that year. The pledge does not solicit any cause or organization, but encourages the pledger to find a unique way to give back that can inspire them personally and benefit society greatly. Many of the individual profiles of contributing pledgers specifically note that their children will not be inheriting the money. Warren Buffett himself has instead contributed his fortune to each of his three children's philanthropic foundations.

Other contributors include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Silicon Valley venture-capital titan John Doerr. Others on the list are well known for their giving, such as Turner and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The foundation continues to grow each year and with every new pledger there comes new ideas to change the world. 'Philanthropy is not just a game that rich folks play,' says Charles Bronfman of Seagrams. 'It's something that we all do with deep passion, trying to do, in our own niches, something to change the world.'

The group meets annually to brainstorm ideas for impactful investing and the small staff of The Giving Pledge works diligently to connect pledgers with similar interests. The foundation has not only brought together an influential group of striving billionaires, but also inspired great leaders to socialise and self-educate each other on global social issues, how to give more effectively, and how to measure success. For those who question the reason for such a community of wealthy individuals who already had plans to give away their fortunes, the group's strategy is to create interest in and widespread publicity about the pledge first. It hopes to inspire other billionaires to join their movement and support those who do not know where to start or how to get involved with their fortunes.

Many of the billionaires are excited to continue their pledge and according to Bill Cummings, one of the latest billionaires to join, 'There's a point at which it doesn't make any difference to earn more money, we are much more interested in doing things in the community. Its very satisfying to do good things with what you have.' According to Forbes 2013 list of Billionaires, there are currently 1,426 names globally, and with the recent inclusion of global billionaires to The Giving Pledge foundation it will be interesting to watch its growth and see the impact they can make.